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Pennsylvania Family Cites Nursing Home Neglect in Fatal Fall

nursing home neglect, falls, nursing home abuse

The family of a Pennsylvania woman who died after falling in her nursing home has filed a lawsuit claiming her death is the result of nursing home neglect.  In the lawsuit, the family of Nancy Young claims the owners of the facility, Pleasant Acres Nursing Home, received repeated warnings about insufficient staff numbers.  They say inadequate staffing ultimately caused Mrs.  Young’s death. 

Well Aware of her Needs, Unable to Meet Them

All things considered, Nancy Young was in good health for her 89 years.  When she died eight days after a fall in her nursing home, her family was outraged but not necessarily surprised.  Their attorney said there were indications for weeks and months prior to her fall that the facility did not schedule enough staff to prevent such a tragedy. 

Following her death, her family claimed that Mrs.  Young was a victim of neglect.  They say the facility did not have enough staff members present to enable them to properly watch her.  She suffered from dementia and had special mobility needs, including a walker and a special shoe to walk around safely.

According to the lawsuit filed on her behalf,  Mrs.  Young’s family says the facility was well-aware of her needs.  They even noted in her chart dated the day of her arrival that she would sometimes forget to take her walker and would need a cue from staff members to remember it. 

According to the facility’s notes, Mrs.  Young was also known to wander aimlessly with her rolling walker, making her at heightened risk for a serious fall.  Throughout her time in the facility, she fell a total of six times, sustaining only minor injuries before the fatal fall that would claim her life. 

Nursing Home Neglect Follows a Change of Ownership

When the ownership of Pleasant Acres transferred from York County to private ownership, there was a noticeable change.  The lawsuit filed against them claims that understaffing and nursing home neglect became readily apparent. 

Almost overnight, the detailed charting disappeared.  Prior to the change, there was a robust body of information detailing exactly the kind of care Mrs.  Young would receive, as well as observations of how to better care for her and keep her safe.  Time and again, nurses wrote the phrase “keep her walker within reach.” These notes abruptly stopped when the facility changed hands. 

Suddenly, Mrs.  Young did not receive visual checks as had been part of her care.  She even went for up to eleven shifts at a time without being checked, even though she had previously been on fall precautions.  This is key information for the family’s claims that Mrs.  Young suffered nursing home neglect. 

As a matter of fact, four separate Pennsylvania Department of Health reports, before and after Mrs.  Young’s death, show the facility failed to meet the minimum number of caretakers during inspections. 

In addition to the staff shortage, the lawsuit claims that staff knew Mrs.  Young needed her rolling walker and a special shoe to move around.  She had neither the day of her fall.  She fell in the doorway of another resident’s room without her walker, wearing only socks on her feet. 

The lawsuit points out the staff shortage at the facility was such a problem that there were no eye witnesses to Mrs.  Young’s fall.  With a sufficient number of people working, someone should have seen, intervened, or been on hand to ensure Mrs.  Young did not move around without her mobility devices.  Instead, she took a terrible fall, broke her wrist and hip, and passed away a week later. 

Unacceptable Care Even After the Fall

Despite suffering multiple broken bones in her fall, Mrs.  Young continued to suffer nursing home neglect.  She spent the last seven days of her life in pain, groaning and moaning from her injuries.  The lawsuit highlights notes that Mrs.  Young was visible and audibly in pain. 

When it was made clear to her family that she was not receiving adequate care or repositioning, they transferred her to hospice care.  Sadly, she died within a few days.

Their lawsuit asks for damages both to compensate the family and to punish the facility.  In accordance with Pennsylvania law, the suit does not name a dollar amount.  If the case proceeds to trial, a jury will have to determine the value of the damages. 

Understaffing is Serious Nursing Home Neglect

In the transfer of ownership from a county to private ownership, many residents and family members expressed concerns about adequate staffing levels at Pleasant Acres.  Their concerns turned out to be valid.

Mrs.  Young’s family’s lawsuit alleges the facility employed reduced staff members for the financial benefit of the facility.  More than once, the facility failed inspections for inadequate staffing numbers. 

In the end, a high staff-to-resident ratio burns out staff members and creates an environment of nursing home neglect.  Some chilling examples of neglect noted at the facility include:

  • A resident who pushed her call button, walked to the nurse’s station 25 minutes later, and only received the requested aid after waiting another half hour.
  • A resident eating in the hallway for the convenience of the only two staff members on the shift.
  • A resident in the dining hall wearing only two hospital gowns and a sweater, when normal protocol is for residents to wear street clothes. Staff suggested there was not enough staff to ensure all residents were helped.

Failing to supervise a resident with a known and heightened fall risk seems like only the natural escalation of the problems created by understaffing at Pleasant Acres. 

Falls are Always Dangerous

For nursing home residents, frequent falls are a fairly reliable sign of nursing home neglect.  Many patients wander like Mrs.  Young, and many patients have mobility issues.  A fall for a resident of advanced age can easily have painful or fatal consequences. 

It is particularly tragic because nursing home caregivers are trained and should be able to prevent most resident falls.  On the other hand, no amount of training can put an licensed practical nurse or an aide in two places at once.  With too many residents to look after, it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. 

Has Someone you Love Suffered Nursing Home Neglect?

If someone you love lives in a nursing home and is suffering frequent falls, it may be a sign of nursing home neglect.  Frequent falls, malnutrition or dehydration, or not receiving the personal hygiene care they need are all signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.

If you suspect nursing home neglect, contact Nursing Home Abuse Center right away.  Your loved one has certain resident rights, and you can help ensure that they are upheld.  Nursing Home Abuse Center can help.  To learn more about your options call 1-800-516-4783.  You can also contact us online for more information. 

 

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